Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 16

New Canaan, Connecticut

5. Oct. 1927



Oh, Margaret!


The letter you send to-day with the photograph of the cast is the most precious and sacred of all.1 But for the horrible incident I am boiling over with disgust.2 As there is no one to set me back off the stove, I am not going to say any more about it until I simmer down a little. I will say a word about the photos I sent yesterday,3 and take time to cool off.

I am afraid I have no very good full face such as you want. The Pirie MacDonald portrait is old of course, but the one of all others I prefer, and the likeliest to publish. The two by Spurr taken in Pasadena two years ago, are by far the best recent ones. I have good prints of all three, if you like any one especially. And there are two more Spurr [—] portraits fine photographically, but not so simple as these.

I don’t send any youthful ones, as I fear you couldn’t stand them! Youth is so susceptible!!

There is an enormous collection here of all times, ages, and places, which you will see when you drive down on your exploration of New England.

Now in view of your acquaintance red-eyed sentry and others, I would say it would be the part of wisdom to keep these precious relics in your table drawer face down. All but the Place of Vision.4 That is safe, because you can say it is LaSalle5 or any of you worthies taking a preview of Canada. Also it is really the best portrait of all, as it sub-ordinates the physiog (which is immaterial) to the environment (which is vital in pictures of poets.)

The woodlander I include is one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, Willie Longstaff.6 He is in Sherwood Forest sighting the King’s deer. It is really remarkably like one of your favorite poets. Only your F.P.7 would have something better than a red deer in his mind’s eye, and something better than a beech-tree bole to lean against—if I know anything about F.P.s.

Until very soon—and after



  1. Not identified. [back]

  2. In the first of two letters of October 3, 1927, Lawrence tells Carman of being accosted by a young Jewish lawyer during and after a party that took place the previous evening in the Toronto home of Emma Goldman (see Introduction xvi and Letter 17 n.2). In her second letter, written in the evening, the earlier letter is characterized as an intemperate but therapeutic outburst of feeling. [back]

  3. Evidently Carman enclosed three photographs with Letter 15: the 1903 portrait by the New York photographer Pirie MacDonald that serves as the frontspiece in various editions of Pipes of Pan (1902-1905; 1906), and two taken during a stay in Pasadena, California from January to March, 1925 (see Letters 326-27). Among the materials donated by Lawrence to the University of Western Ontario are two photographs by E. Willard Spurr of 165, North Madison Avenue, Pasadena. Like the MacDonald portrait, both are full face.

    Fig. 2: Bliss Carman in 1925. [back]


  4. On the back of the copy of this photograph in the Lawrence bequest to Western, Carman has written "See The Place of Vision In Far Horizons Snapped by John Murray Gibbon / In the Canadian Rockies Overlook[ing]" (subsequent words trimmed off). Carman’s Far Horizons was published in 1925. See also Letter 7 n.3 and Fig. 3. 

    Fig 3: Carman at "The Place of Vision." [back]


  5. René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643-1687) was a French-born fur trader and explorer of what is now the American mid-West. In 1682 he descended the Mississippi River to its mouth and in 1686 he was assassinated by his own men during an expedition to establish a base at the mouth of the Rio Grande. See also Introduction xii. [back]

  6. Carman is referring to another of the photographs donated by Lawrence to Western (see Fig. 4). "Willie Longstaff" is a play on Carman’s first name (see Letter 8 n.12), though it is difficult to ignore the phallic dimension to the sobriquet. 

    Fig. 4: "Willie Longstaff." [back]

  7. Favourite Poet. [back]